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According to tradition, which side of the bed should a man sleep on?
October 23, 2009 4:27 PM   Subscribe

In heterosexual relationships, is there a side of the bed that men normally sleep on? Is there any kind of tradition behind it? Like, if you're standing at the foot of the bed looking at the pillows, are men supposed to sleep on the left or right side? My dad always slept on the left side. And myself, with my last girlfriend, I also slept on the left side. Am I unconsciously re-enacting some kind of old tradition as to what side I'm supposed to sleep on?

I know that there's some kind of tradition regarding walking beside a woman on the sidewalk. Men were supposed to stand between the woman and the street so that if any mud was splashed up by a passing carriage, the man would bear the brunt of the mud.

One other thing - I've noticed that in both my father's and my case, we would sleep on the side closest to the door, which just happened to be the left side. Does anyone know if any studies about this have been made? I'm not saying that these ancient customs should be upheld, nor that they should continue. I'm just curious if historically, there's a custom of some sort. Thanks.
posted by Sully to Human Relations (124 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I sleep on the left side...(I'm a heterosexual man)...we tried trading sides a few times and each time it just feels ...wrong....I don't know why. The left side is the closest to the door...I have not heard of any tradition, but it's interesting to see how many men sleep on the left.
posted by AltReality at 4:32 PM on October 23, 2009


Empirically, the side closest the door. I'd bet money on that being the majority response. Why? Not a clue.
posted by Leon at 4:34 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yep, the side closest to the door. In case any shit goes down.
posted by shadow vector at 4:36 PM on October 23, 2009 [27 favorites]


I tend to take the edge (since I've always had the bed pushed up to the side). But really I'll sleep on any side. Whoever is waking up first takes the edge, though.
posted by just.good.enough at 4:39 PM on October 23, 2009


Weird. I (female) have always slept on the right side, regardless of whether or not it's closest to the door (it often has been, through several apartments).
posted by pammeke at 4:39 PM on October 23, 2009


I think its generally closest to the door. Though oddly that's not what my parents do, so I don't think there's an iron standard.
posted by kylej at 4:40 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a butch dyke, and in most of my relationships I've slept on the left. The exceptions, if I'm remembering right, have always been when the left is against the wall and the right is exposed - then I've been on the right!
posted by serazin at 4:41 PM on October 23, 2009


Male. On the left, which has been closest to the door sometimes, and sometimes not. Right now the door is at the foot of the bed.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 4:41 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on the right, away from the door.
posted by electroboy at 4:41 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm female and on the right (furthest from door) and this really annoyed me and seemed silly when I was pregnant and getting up 3 times a night to pee and wander aimlessly around with insomnia.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:42 PM on October 23, 2009


My wife and I switch sides every so often, though we often stick with one layout for a while (not a day-to-day swap-off). Recently, I've been on the left side, away from the primary (hallway) door, but closer to the auxiliary (bathroom) door, though this is in part to prevent acid reflux (point #10: we spoon, and I'm most often the big spoon, though we switch that up, too).

Then again, my wife does like to tell me that I'm a delicate lady flower (though I'm totally a manly dude). Maybe by repeating this phrase, she's emasculating me. HAMBURGER
posted by filthy light thief at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


I (female) haven't seen any pattern; with the same partner I'll sleep on different sides depending on the bed. It usually just depends what side my pillow is on
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2009


I am a woman and sleep on the left side (also, the side closest to the door). But I get up earlier and the alarm clock is on that side.
posted by nimsey lou at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2009


My mum always slept closer to the door and now I do too with my boyfriend. That's the right side of the bed. It's just where I feel more comfortable.
posted by liquorice at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2009


I (female) always take the side closest to the door because my SO sleeps like a log and if Danger is coming in through the door at least I know I'll wake up before we are both slashed to death.
posted by jamaro at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I, a straight man, sleep on the right. Originally, it was that I liked sleeping next to the wall. We've since moved and neither is against a wall. We kept our sides. In both situations, she was closer to the door.
posted by advicepig at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2009


If the bed is against the wall, I get to the spot not against the wall as quick as I can. If the bed is in the middle of the room it is totally up in the air most nights. Generally there is a side one of us sleep on more often but it has nothing to do with the door, at least not in my experience. (Female, and probably wouldn't change regardless of orientation.)
posted by june made him a gemini at 4:44 PM on October 23, 2009


I am right-handed hetero male. That is why I sleep on the right side of the bed, for... easier access.
posted by plombir at 4:45 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've heard that the man is supposed to sleep on the right side, so when lying on his back, his right arm is free to reach for his sword. I sleep on the left; fortunately no brigands have yet invaded my bedroom.
posted by dhalgren at 4:46 PM on October 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Anecdotally, I always thought Ray Romano was right on in this episode of Dr. Katz, in which he posits that men choose the side away from the door in case the Boogieman comes.
posted by jbickers at 4:46 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


My guess is that your specific case is a mishmash of coincidence and possible unconscious choice of that side because it's the side your dad had. I don't know that there is an actual long-standing "traditional" man-side of the bed, unless we have perhaps internalized images from old tv shows like I Love Lucy that showed bedroom interiors (in which case, you're on the wrong side!). I'm female and sleep on the left/Lucy side.
posted by so_gracefully at 4:50 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I (male) sleep on the right, girlfriend on the left. I am right handed. ahem.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Right side, nearest the door, the entire time I've been with Mr. F.

I don't know about all this shit-going-down discussion, though. If shit goes down, it could potentially go down from the windows or the door, either way, and will probably involve everyone in the room in really short order regardless of the sleeping arrangement.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:53 PM on October 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


A new boyfriend once melted my heart by asking which side I slept on after the first time we hit the sheets, and then leaping up out of bed to go around to the other side. So sweet!
I like the left, which happens to be nearer the door.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:55 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yep, I sleep on the left side because I am lefthanded. Ahem.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on the left side, although with regard to the nearest-to-the-door thing, if that were the case, shouldn't the real question then be why everyone sets up their bed such that the left side is closest to the door? (Mine isn't).
posted by pravit at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on the left, but remember that my dad slept on the right.

I think it has more to do with who goes to bed or wakes up first (and who is more likely to use the master bath for a midnight pee).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm a right-handed, left-eyed heterosexual woman who used to be bilingual and whose politics are left of center. I've been on the right and on the left, and this has changed within and between relationships. I am also rather ADD and indecisive. Go figure.

Possible reasons why people end up on one side or another:

- strong handedness preference #1 (the same way we clasp our hands with either the right or left thumb on top, some people must have their right or left arm under their partner when cuddling)
- strong handedness preference #2 (see "ahem" answers above)
- who feels more strongly about being protective (e.g. near the door; on the side of the bed that the monsters hide under)
- who feels more strongly about being self-sacrificing (e.g. on the bumpy bit of the mattress; near the drafty window; next to the wall)
- who needs to be closer to the alarm clock
- conscious or subconscious emulation of parents or Rob and Laura Petrie (who slept in separate beds, I know, but one of them was on the left)
posted by maudlin at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


I sleep on the right, away from the door.

Me too. I must be some kind of girly-man.
posted by dersins at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a dommy female with a male partner, so I pick the sides, and I sleep on my side, so I sleep on his left or his right (he's a back sleeper) depending on whether I want to be facing him as I sleep or facing away from him. Often, that's a determination of temperature, sometimes mood.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:06 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on whatever side is least comfortable if I know what's good for me.

And in the too-hot or too-cold dark I wonder how "sexual equality" became a synonym for "role reversal".
posted by clarknova at 5:08 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hetero male: I sleep on the left side for personal reasons, I've pushed my partner over to the other side when she tried to sleep on my side a few times. I was also relieved the first time I slept in her bed, that she gave me the left side (I would not have pushed the issue in her bed). My reasons do not have to do with defense of a doorway or a window, though those entry points do kind of fall into place for us.
posted by honestpuppet at 5:09 PM on October 23, 2009


I once read some research that said the dominant person in the relationship tends to sleep on the side closest to the door. That was a few years ago.
posted by taff at 5:11 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


In my experience with several partners, women sleep nearest to the bathroom. So with my wife, if we are travelling, sides can change, depending on where the toilet is located.

I can't be the only one who lives this way, I suspect.
posted by Danf at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Clearly a pattern for many couples gets established early on, but then the question is: when you go off to a hotel, a motel, a friend's house, and you are to share the same bed, which side and who decides? tip: I am old, male, so in strange place, I want to be close as possible to bathroom for that prostate call.
posted by Postroad at 5:16 PM on October 23, 2009


Female here, sleep on the left because I have a deviated septum (to the right) so I can't sleep on my left side or my throat goes dry and painful in like 5 seconds flat. Since I prefer not to sleep facing my partner all the time, I get the left. He complains about it.

Before I smashed my nose and deviated my septum, we didn't have sides. We just fell asleep on whatever side we found ourselves on.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:17 PM on October 23, 2009


I am a newly-single female and I still sleep on the right side of the bed, despite the fact that it's the side furthest from the door. And it's not like I'm subconsciously avoiding sleeping where my partner slept -- I got divorced, moved out, bought a new bed and set it up in a brand-new room and I'm still walking into my room, walking all the way around my bed, and climbing in on the right side.
posted by kate blank at 5:18 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't fully read your question, and since I set up another account I might as well not hide it. I sleep on the left side of the bed because my father did. It's important to me in my own bed, not so much my partner's, but I'm damn glad to be falling asleep on the left side of hers since she's willing to give into my notions about gender and sides of bed.
posted by honestpuppet at 5:20 PM on October 23, 2009


Left side, regardless of whether or not it's closest to the door, presumably because I tend to sleep more on my right side (i.e., facing out).
posted by scody at 5:21 PM on October 23, 2009


Oh, and I've never, ever, ever heard of any traditional side for the man to sleep on.
posted by scody at 5:21 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a female and I sleep on the left, always. If I'm at my boyfriend's house, I'm on the left and he's on the right. At home, I'm on the left and the cats sleep on the right. The reason I think is because I like to sleep on my left side while hugging something, boyfriend or pillow but I also like to be next to the edge, so only the left side works for me. The bedroom door or bathroom door is never a factor, I've never even thought about that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2009


I am a lady in a hetero relationship and I sleep on the left side of the bed, which is furthest from the door and opposite the nightstand. My partner likes to have a fan on at night (it lives on the nightstand) and I can't stand having air blowing on my face all night, so in this configuration I get to use him as a shield. A useful consequence of this arrangement is that both of our "ahem"-dominant hands are free, so even if the fan weren't an issue I'd have voted for it anyway.
posted by bewilderbeast at 5:24 PM on October 23, 2009


My wife always sleeps on the side closest to the bathroom. At home, in hotels, camping (the woods) and even on a plane she gets aisle.

I have friends that actually pick a side when they go to sleep each night. They have identical alarms on both sides and they switch off randomly. Freaky!!!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:25 PM on October 23, 2009


My girl and I sometimes switch sides, if someone goes to bed first, and we tease one another about it. "You slept on my side!" We've moved quite a few times and so scanning back through my memories I can tell you I was always most comfortable sleeping on the side closest to the door. That's where I sleep 9 of 10 nights. I never quite thought of it that concretely, it just felt "right". So let me join the chorus.
posted by meadowlark lime at 5:29 PM on October 23, 2009


Generally Mr. Cesmtoi sleeps on the left, which is closest to the door, and now that I think of it, if we're away he does sleep on the side closest to the door, which I hadn't noticed before. Also, I tend to go to bed before him, which means I'm first to pick a side.

But at home with the dogs in the bed, we're lucky to have either side.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:32 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep closest to the plate of beans....

that said...

the guy sleeps on the side that his lovely partner wishes him to sleep on... it's that simple...
posted by HuronBob at 5:33 PM on October 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


i sleep on the right side....cause i am used to sleeping there when nobody is here...anybody that wishes to sleep with me goes to the left
posted by The1andonly at 5:35 PM on October 23, 2009


we switch every few months - presently, if you stand at the food of our bed, he's on the left and i'm on the right. the door is at the foot of our bed.

my parents had a M-F and a Sat/Sun schedule. on Mon-Fri dad slept closest to the door because he got up earlier for work. on the weekend, they switched so mom would be the one first disturbed by the kids. this caused great heartache for our cat who was allowed to sleep at mom's feet, but not dad's. 5 days a week he'd sleep in bliss and 2 days a week he'd get kicked forcefully into the closet.
posted by nadawi at 5:39 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


The bedroom door is nearest the foot of the bed. I have slept on the right (as you're standing at the foot of the bed looking at your pillow) for some years now, though when we were first together it was opposite. The Empress has always said that I should sleep nearer the door "So the shots hit you first." I always thought she was being silly until I saw the comments here. I tend to sleep on my back.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:45 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm a straight guy. In one house of mine, I sleep on the right, nearest the door. In the other house, I sleep on the left, further from the door. In hotels, it's kinda random, but I think I tend to the left. My dad slept on the right, further from the door.

I've never, ever, ever heard of any traditional side for the man to sleep on.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 5:49 PM on October 23, 2009


At home I always sleep on the right and he always sleeps on the left. But thinking back about other bedrooms I've slept in, it seems that I almost always sleep closest to the door, whichever side that happens to be.

It could quite possibly have something to do with my being extremely claustrophobic, though I don't think I've ever consciously chosen with that in mind unless one side of the bed was actually against a wall.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:57 PM on October 23, 2009


I am female (right-handed), and have slept on the left side (audience left, bed right) with my three long-term partners. My mother also slept on the left side. With me, I think the main rationale is because I prefer to sleep on my right side and if I'm going to roll towards the (sometimes downhill) middle of the bed, that brings me to sleeping on my back, which is preferable to sleeping on my stomach, which is what would happen if I were sleeping on my right side on the other side of the bed. Quite simple, really.
posted by fish tick at 6:03 PM on October 23, 2009


At home, in hotels, or staying with family, Mr. Danaos always sleeps closer to the door. If we rearrange the bedroom, we change sides accordingly. I don't believe we've ever discussed it. It's just been The Way It Is Done from the first night we spent together.
posted by timeo danaos at 6:03 PM on October 23, 2009


My spouse always sleeps on the side closest to the wall, because I like to be closest to the alarm clock.
posted by muddgirl at 6:14 PM on October 23, 2009


I always sleep on whatever side the alarm clock is on, because I must have immediate and repeated access to the snooze button. My husband gets the non-alarm side, which is currently the left side, but that has changed with different room configurations. Same thing with hotels--left or right, I sleep by the alarm.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:15 PM on October 23, 2009


I always sleep next to the wall regardless of whether it's right or left.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:19 PM on October 23, 2009


I (straight male) sleep on the left side of the bed, which is closest to the door. When we go to hotels, we'll occasionally switch sides, but since it's almost a king size bed, we can still sleep in our usual sleep positions (I sleep on my right side, facing towards her, she sleeps facing the same direction). I always sleep on the side closest to the door, due to Mrs. Thabombshelter's preference for sleeping AWAY from the door.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:29 PM on October 23, 2009


When I lived with my husband, I always slept on the right. Not really for any particular reason other than I guess because it was his house and bed first and he always slept on the left before I moved in.

Now that I'm divorced, I can take up the entire bed again. I like this arrangement so much better that I don't even care if the ninja-boogieman-robbers have no choice but to shoot me when they come into the bedroom.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 6:33 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep closest to the door, as per my wife's request. When we bought our first house, I had to learn to sleep on the other side of the bed, since the door moved.
posted by toekneebullard at 6:34 PM on October 23, 2009


I (a heterosexual male) sleep on the left side of the bed. This is the side furthest from the door and closest to the window. I have always yielded whichever side is closest to the bathroom to my wife. Also our kids come in through the door and they really prefer to bother their mother, so it's more convenient for them if she's right there. It's possible that if I was closer to the door they'd bug me more often but that's really not something I'm interested in exploring.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:35 PM on October 23, 2009


My wife and I sleep on whatever side. We switch it up often. I've also done the same with girlfriends, and on my own. No sides.. no "protector of the door" thing.
posted by odinsdream at 6:43 PM on October 23, 2009


My boyfriend sleeps on the right - the side closest to the door. However, this is because he gets up at 5:30 and i get up closer to 10. If we got up at the same time, he would sleep near the wall.
posted by Amanda B at 6:45 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on the left side, which was away from the door when we first married.

Then we moved. I still sleep on the left side, closer to the door.

Ah, habits.
posted by jeanmari at 6:45 PM on October 23, 2009


I have no "side" that I own nor prefer. When I get a new lover, I ask which side she prefers, and let her sleep on that side.

Some pick closest to the door (bathroom), which can be convenient in an unfamiliar bedroom in the dark.

Some don't care, either.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:45 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm male. When I lived alone, I slept on the left and my cat slept on the right. Then when my GF moved in, I could hardly ask her to share her pillow with my cat, and asking the cat to switch sides had no effect. So, I switched to the right.

My cat's gone now, and due to an injury to my left arm I'd actually rather have my right arm on the outside of the bed, but it seems weird to try to switch again.
posted by nicwolff at 6:55 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Generally. I sleep closet to the door to get to the children faster without waking my husband (or conversely, so they could come to me without disturbing him). In our current house that is the left hand side. However, when I flipped the mattress a month or so ago my husband said the left side was now more comfortable and now he sleeps there and I crawl over his legs to get to the children or our son crawls over both of us to lie between me and the wall.
posted by saucysault at 6:56 PM on October 23, 2009


I used to sleep on the bed left, audience right side, but my spouse gets up over an hour earlier than I do and that's where the alarm clock was, so I would have to wake up and turn it off for him, and maybe he wouldn't hear it and go back to sleep, and I don't like to wake up early if I can possibly help it, so we switched.

Now I am closest to the door, which is great if you are on a laptop because it is closer to the router, and also nice for the ceiling fan, but I actually prefer the other side, probably because I am left-handed. This side is also further from the bathroom, and of course the brigands could get me first.

When my husband is out of town, I stay on my side, for no reason at all. I mean, it's a king-sized bed and I like lots of room, but I just take up this little space on my side anyway. I'm also always tired but can barely sleep when he's gone, which sounds sweet and romantic but kinda sucks.

Right now, after thinking all this through, I'm about ready to switch again just for the hell of it.
posted by misha at 7:05 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on my left side, on the right side of the bed (looking from the foot of the bed). I always have. When I started sharing a bed with my husband, I had to have him sleep on the left side of the bed because he sleeps on his right side and I CAN'T STAND if someone is breathing near me, on me, next to me...I have sleep issues, clearly.

But that's why we sleep where we sleep. Doesn't matter where the door is.
posted by cooker girl at 7:06 PM on October 23, 2009


Hetero man, left side.
posted by unixrat at 7:26 PM on October 23, 2009


Obviously, Mr. Jadepearl has me sleep on the left side because I know how to use the 10" chef's knife in the bedside table and I am closest to the door. It is fair since I let him walk three steps in front of me so he can get the punji sticks first.
posted by jadepearl at 7:30 PM on October 23, 2009


I read a book last year called Two in a Bed which covered this as well as other traditional sleep habits, and yes, men typically sleep on the side closest to the perceived direction from which a threat might come. In my current situation, that means my boyfriend is on the left, on the side closest to the fire escape window, and I am nearer the door. In his previous apartment, he slept nearer the balcony door and I nearer the bathroom, and in my previous apartment we switched off pretty evenly between sides, one of which had a fire escape window (with a security gate) and the door to the room.

It does seem that couples establish a trend for themselves early on, whether it's side of the bed based on preference or bed set up (I cannot be between the wall and someone, if the bed is pushed up against the wall for example) or unconscious perceived danger.

Two in a Bed
was a fascinating read, mostly for this exact topic.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:32 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


In July's Scientific American, there's an article that discusses the idea that, in most vertebrates, the right brain hemisphere is specialised to deal with detecting and responding to unexpected stimuli.

According to the article: fish, amphibians, birds and mammals respond more quickly to predators seen in the left side of their visual field (controlled by the right hemisphere).

This is the abstract/preview.

If men have traditionally played the role of physical protector, it seems logical enough that a pattern might have emerged where many males sleep facing their partner (so that they can see if any threats are coming towards them both), with their left field of vision being given the better vantage point. Sleeping on the left achieves this.

I sleep by the door; not because I'm an awesome chivalrous protector--I just need to urinate a lot.
posted by surenoproblem at 7:40 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


My boyfriend wears contacts, which he only takes out just before we go to sleep. So he sleeps on whichever side of the bed has an end table - which has been the left in two apartments, and the right in one.
posted by shaun uh at 7:47 PM on October 23, 2009


I am a female and with a male bed companion I always sleep on the side away from the door. I guess that's the left side if I am standing up and looking towards the headboard. It may be like how a lot of guys won't sit with their backs to the door. I always snuggle facing in till I get ready to actually sleep, then I face the wall. Its been very consistent for the last decade or so. I often switch sides and either sleep in the middle or on the right when I'm by myself.
posted by stormygrey at 7:50 PM on October 23, 2009


I (male) sleep on the right, wife on the left. Door is closest to me, in case zombies attack.
posted by edmcbride at 7:56 PM on October 23, 2009


How do you tell which side of the bed is the left or right of the bed? Am I not assuming something everyone else is? I mean the right side of the bed laying down on my back is different the right side of my bed standing facing the bed. I'm assuming that most people are referring to the bed from the way they spend the most time with it, which is laying down (assuming on one's back).
posted by bigmusic at 8:05 PM on October 23, 2009


I have honestly never heard that there is a gender basis for "who gets to sleep on what side of the bed." I've always heard it's just an individalized preference.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:05 PM on October 23, 2009


Sometimes my husband and I switch sides, but mostly right now he sleeps on the left side. But that hasn't always been the case; he's always had to wake up before me, so he sleeps on the side that's by the alarm clock and faces out toward the rest of the room so he doesn't have to climb over me. Depending on where we've had our bed in rooms in the past, he's slept on the right.
posted by Nattie at 8:11 PM on October 23, 2009


My husband and I have changed sides several times in our marriage. Reasons: he likes it colder than I do (so slept closer to the window in winter in Fairbanks, and otherwise tends to sleep on the side that it's easiest to aim a fan at without blowing it on me); we've had drastically different work schedules at times, so the one of us who has to get up much earlier has slept closer to the door; he needs more outlets for CPAP machine and fan; and there are probably a few others I'm not remembering at the moment. A few times, he's just decided that he'd be more comfortable on the other side, and we've switched until we had a pressing reason to switch back.
posted by Cricket at 8:11 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm male, and sleep on the non-wall side of the bed. Not really a gender thing, I just get up more often at night, and wake up earlier.
posted by mordax at 8:15 PM on October 23, 2009


Heterosexual female, right-handed. I sleep on the left side of the bed (as perceived from the bed, not from above). I don't think it has to do with access to the door (it doesn't bug me in hotels or whatever), but the door is on "my" side in our current bedroom, on my side when we sleep in his old room when we visit the inlaws, and on my side when we sleep in my old room in my old house. I think this is more a coincidence than anything else, although I do exhibit other supposedly "masculine" sleep habits, such as feeling confined/suffocated when cuddled or spooned, and preferring to be on the outside of the "spoon." I guess, thinking on it, I get up more often in the night, and I would definitely feel trapped and inconvenienced if my side were up against a wall or similar. I am a side/stomach sleeper, and I would bet that plays a part in determining if someone is particularly picky about their "side" -- you get in a habit of sleeping in certain positions that are difficult if someone is in your way.

I have always slept on the left -- I believe because this was usually the side most open to the room in most of the bedroom setups I had in childhood through young adulthood. I happen to be more stubborn about "my" side than some other people, so I ended up on the left in every co-sleeping arrangement when I got older. I've never heard that there was a gender bias for this preference -- just that everyone has a preference, like the over-or-under toilet paper roll argument.
posted by tigerbelly at 8:29 PM on October 23, 2009


Hetero female. I have never heard of a custom, but I've always had a "my side" of the bed. When my partner and I first moved in together, I had the right side, closer to the door. When we moved again, we switched it up and I took the left side, which also happens to be closer to the door. I had not thought of it in terms of security or defense. I guess I like being closer to the door since I'm more likely to get up in the middle of the night.

Once we decide on sides, that side really feels like "my" side and I won't sleep on "his" side, even if he's not there. I keep my books, alarm clock, etc. on my nightsand on "my" side and likewise with him.
posted by spiny at 8:35 PM on October 23, 2009


I think the wall side is preferable, so I'm charmed and grateful when a partner lets me have it. But there are a lot of other factors that can override my slight preference for the wall -- if I expect to have to get up first, I'll angle for the open side instead. It's not a huge issue for me.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:48 PM on October 23, 2009


I sleep on the driver's side.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:00 PM on October 23, 2009


My (male) fiance and I (female) trade off depending on whose house we're at. In both cases the left side is closer to the door, and we had each placed our alarm clocks on that side for easier getting-up when we slept alone, so whoever owns the bed sleeps on the left closest to the door. I'm not sure what we'll do when it's just our place.

In my last apartment I swapped the orientation of the bed several times, and I always slept closer to the door side regardless of whether it was right or left because it was easier to get out of when I had to get up. Less likelihood of banging my shins on the footboard if I didn't have to walk around the bed. I imagine I would have done the same if I was a guy.

I tried to swap us last week because the temperature variations in my room are the opposite of our preferences, but he decided that it was more important that I be able to reach the alarm clock since I get up first.

That said, if either of us had our beds against the wall, I would really have to insist on not sleeping on that side. I hate being trapped, having to climb either over a person or off the foot of the bed to get out in the middle of the night.

Also, I can't believe so many couples here have mixed combinations of hand dominance, given that the majority of people are righties. Or if not, how do you all decide who gets to use their favorite hand?
posted by vytae at 9:03 PM on October 23, 2009


I wake up earlier and need to go to the bathroom more often than my honey, plus I hate having the fan blowing on me. So I sleep closest to the door on the left hand side of the bed, and he gets the window side on the right.

I've never given a thought to it being a gendered issue. I'm just happy the cat lets me sleep on the bed at all.

The only problem is the closet monsters will get to me first.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:03 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I'm missing something here. People keep talking about using their dominant hand. Also, earlier in the responses, people were *aheming* like crazy about this, but no one elaborated. Are we talking about masturbation? Why would that figure into what side you slept on?
posted by Sully at 9:28 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love to sleep wherever the window is, regardless of the side.

I like looking out the windows at night and seeing the stars, and having the sun on my face to wake me up in the morning.

Yep. That's the side for me.
posted by anitanita at 9:30 PM on October 23, 2009


I think I'm missing something here. People keep talking about using their dominant hand. Also, earlier in the responses, people were *aheming* like crazy about this, but no one elaborated. Are we talking about masturbation? Why would that figure into what side you slept on?

....and I thought I was just a naive girl for not knowing what they were going on about. I assumed it was something to do with masturbation but I don't get why it matters what side of the bed you sleep on.

I've never heard this thing about being near the door. My boyfriend sleeps on the right because when we moved in together he said he always sleeps on the right and since I'd only had single beds before that, it didn't really make a difference to me. In our current house that means I'm nearest the door (but not by much), in my parents house, he's nearest the door.
posted by missmagenta at 9:46 PM on October 23, 2009


From the perspective of someone standing at the foot of the bed, I (female) sleep on the left and my partner (male) sleeps on the right. This also holds true when we're traveling, unless the bed is up against a wall, in which case I believe I always take the wall side. (Also, before we moved in together, both our beds were against walls, but the side of the bed was different in each apartment, so we would switch depending on where we were sleeping.) I am attempting to suss out a logic behind all of this, and I think the determining factor is that I am a very light sleeper and my partner is not. So:

-When the bed is against a wall, I take the inside, even though I am more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. If my partner took the inside, I'd wake up every time he clambered in and out of bed. (Also, because he's a heavier sleeper he'd be more likely to crowd me out of the bed if I were on the outside, whereas I wake up if I roll into him.)

-When the bed is not against the wall (very preferable), as has been the case in the two apartments we have lived in, I have slept on the left side, which is closer to the windows and further from the bathroom. (In our current apartment, our bedroom has two doors leading out to the rest of the apartment, so that didn't come into play at all.) Regarding the windows: because I'm a lighter sleeper I am more likely to wake up if it starts raining and close the window. Regarding the bathroom: if my partner had to walk past me to get to the bathroom, I'd wake up every time.

So I think that's the determining factor for us, although I never really thought about it until now.

Also, thanks for asking about the dominant hand thing -- I thought I was the only one who didn't understand what "access" people are talking about. My partner insisted they were talking about masturbation, but I thought they were talking about ability to grope their partners, which didn't make a whole lot of sense (who gropes their partner while lying on their back in bed?). I think part of my confusion is stemming from the lack of clarity about what "left" and "right" side of the bed means.
posted by pluckemin at 9:53 PM on October 23, 2009


People keep talking about using their dominant hand. Also, earlier in the responses, people were *aheming* like crazy about this, but no one elaborated. Are we talking about masturbation? Why would that figure into what side you slept on?

Keep your good hand free, the more dextrously to grope your partner.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:05 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


who gropes their partner while lying on their back in bed?

Place two subjects on their backs in bed. Now turn them to face each other, in kissyface position. Each person now has one arm pinned beneath them, and one arm free for groping.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:08 PM on October 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Standing facing the foot of the bed, I sleep on the left. Why? At the risk of excessive TMI, it's because of oral sex: she always does it from my left (because of comfort, habit, the way parts line up), so if I sleep on the other side of the bed, she has to climb over me before things start, which seems positively inconvenient, if not rude. So we've always slept that way, regardless of where the door happens to be.

For whatever the data point is worth, I have no memory whatsoever of how my parents arranged themselves in bed; if I'm following their pattern, it's unknowingly.
posted by Forktine at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always sleep near the door, wherever the door is, usually, b/c I get up to pee a lot. If there's no obvious "door side" then I'm on the left and he's on the right (corresponds to "door side" in both our rooms, but we're pretty ambidextrous that way. On my SO's birthday (or xmas?) I made a little cartoon dataviz thing that showed all the beds we'd slept in and who slept on which side for the entire time we'd known each other.

My weirdo parents pretty much never shared a bed the whole time I knew them [even when we all lived together] though my Dad's bed was on the right.
posted by jessamyn at 10:37 PM on October 23, 2009



Keep your good hand free, the more dextrously to grope your partner.


So girls aren't allowed to grope? Unless your partner has a different 'handedness', one of you is going to be lying on your dominant arm
posted by missmagenta at 10:58 PM on October 23, 2009


I'm not aware of a traditional side, and I don't particularly care, personally. My gf does care, so I sleep on the side she's not on, and that has changed when we've moved.
posted by brundlefly at 11:18 PM on October 23, 2009


"Sleep on the left side, keep the sword hand free." --Cornershop
posted by staggernation at 11:21 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the explanation, LobsterMitten. I guess either I don't do most of my groping in the kissyface position, or I'm an ambidextrous groper.

So by your logic, one would want to have one's dominant hand on the outside. I wonder if this is the same erotically-inspired bed-side-choice logic that other people were using. missmagenta also brings up the important issue of, in situations where both partners favor the same hand, who gets to be on the appropriate side of the bed. (The obvious solution, of course, is to get a bed shaped like a Möbius strip.)
posted by pluckemin at 11:27 PM on October 23, 2009


I read in some feng shui/meditation literature that the left side of the bed is where logic lies and the right side is chosen mostly by more emotional people. This is not the article, but does the job of summing it up in the usual junk-sciencey-but-hey-maybe kind of way. Never heard this anywhere else, or even analyzed it, but I have kept it in the back of my head. So from a cursory glance at this thread and my own experiences, I'll be damned if we aren't predictable little creatures. Every man I've ever slept with has seemed to instinctively taken the left side to fall asleep, regardless of how much rolling around, and regardless of where the door, window, alarm clock or bathroom was located. In fact, when traveling lately I've taken to making a silly little secret bet about it with myself just to see who ends up on which side of the hotel bed. Maybe this sheds some light, maybe it's bullbalogna, but the dominant-brain theory shows itself in a lot of strange and pretty obvious ways.

Maybe I'll try sleeping on the left side with the GRE math study text over my face and let the universe take care of the rest!
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:35 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Following jessamyn's suggestion, I've just sorted through all the places we've lived, and I'm surprised by how early we picked sides. Pretty much the first place we were actually living together. Looking from the foot of the bed toward the headboard, the male is on the left.

We've kept the same side through all our moves, and it turns out to perfectly alternate whether the male is on the door side or not. (Never had a place with a bathroom attached to the room itself.) In the first house, where we chose sides, the female (me) was toward the door. I can't remember how we ended up on the sides we did; it's the same sex/side combo my parents use, but the opposite of the one his parents use.

As for the groping/pinned arm issue, IME it gets resolved by who has more flexible arm/shoulder or is the more ambidextrous of the pair? Maybe also who's less likely to be kept awake by awkward arm position, if you fall asleep facing each other.

I am sort of amazed by the people here who don't have two nightstands, each with their own alarm, books, etc. And very amazed by the people who regularly switch sides! Freaky.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:27 AM on October 24, 2009


Unless your partner has a different 'handedness', one of you is going to be lying on your dominant arm

ambidextrous groper in the hizzle!
posted by scody at 12:29 AM on October 24, 2009


I have no idea which side of the bed my parents slept on, and they were together until I graduated from high school and moved out.
posted by aniola at 12:49 AM on October 24, 2009


I'm female and I sleep on the side furthest from the door. It strikes me as stupid because I usually go to bed later than my boyfriend, get up earlier, and get up in the night more often. Maybe he just really likes being climbed over.
posted by lwb at 1:05 AM on October 24, 2009


In contrast to all those who pick one side and stick with it, my girlfriend and I (a dude) switch sides at each other's places. At her place, she sleeps on the left, closest to the door, while at mine, I sleep on the left, closest to the door.

Unless your partner has a different 'handedness', one of you is going to be lying on your dominant arm

But once you throw spooning into the mix, it makes more sense. If one partner tends to be the big spoon more often than not, and both partners have the same dominant arm, then it makes sense to lie so that both partners are going to be lying on their non-dominant arm a majority of the time.
posted by ssg at 1:52 AM on October 24, 2009


Female, sleep on the left, male SO sleeps on the right. He's the big spoon, and we are both right handed, so we sleep on our dominant arms. There are doors on each of our sides, but my door is twice as close to the bed.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:29 AM on October 24, 2009


When I was married, it was like this: Me (male) sleeping diagonally, but slightly off-diagonal to my right. Maine Coon cat on my left, taking up about 55% fo the bed space. (now ex-) wife with the smaller triangle to my right.
posted by flutable at 3:49 AM on October 24, 2009


I am a liberal, and I sleep on the left. As far left as I can get. When I die, I will be buried facing west. I make three left hand turns to avoid having to turn right. I think I have a problem.

(Actually, I have feline, door, and positional cough reasons for sleeping on the left and on my right side, but the above makes a better story.)
posted by FauxScot at 4:27 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Straight male, married.. always on the left for me. My father always slept on the right, though, regardless of door position.

Clearly a pattern for many couples gets established early on, but then the question is: when you go off to a hotel, a motel, a friend's house, and you are to share the same bed, which side and who decides?

When we sleep elsewhere, it's random. Sometimes I'm on the left, sometimes on the right. Our "system" is that if either of us go in and naturally gravitate to one side when sitting down, etc, they get that side of the bed. If either of us considers having a particular side to be a big deal, that person gets their way - so far, we've never both adamantly wanted the same side :-)
posted by wackybrit at 4:36 AM on October 24, 2009


We switch sides every few weeks or months. In previous relationships, when someone has expressed a strong preference, they get the side they prefer. In the past, when my bed was up against the wall, I preferred not to be up against the wall, and ended up moving the bed when a boyfriend really didn't like the wall position.

Now I make sure that each side of the bed has access and a bedside table for (glasses, glass of water, alarm clock, book, etc).
posted by sciencegeek at 4:39 AM on October 24, 2009


I can't speak for myself, but my mom and dad (coming up on their 35th anniversary) do always sleep on the same sides, regardless of location: mom on the left and dad on the right. In the houses we've lived in (at least since I was born) the door has been on the right side (11 years), foot of the bed (2 years), left side (3 years) and left side (13 years). They're also both right-handed. They sleep the same way in other people's houses and hotels.

They lived two different places before I was born, however, which is probably where the patterns got set. I'll have to ask, they'll be tickled!

The feng shui explanation works for them - my mom's definitely the logical and my dad the emotional member of the pair - but I'm sure that's a matter of chance.
posted by clerestory at 5:03 AM on October 24, 2009


I thought it best to have my wife, a nurse, sleep on the right side because it's closest to the door and we had infants at the time. I was more concerned about the welfare of the infants then being a "physical protector".
posted by qsysopr at 5:20 AM on October 24, 2009


I'm with Sallyfur - over a century of tradition demands that the male sleeps on the "driver's side".

So as heterosexual Aussie bloke I'm on the right. (As determined when lying on my back. Who - until now - has ever described the side of a bed with respect to standing looking at it from its foot? Makes about as much sense as so describing the sides of a car! If I'm near a bed I want to lying in it, not admiring it at a respectful distance on my feet)
posted by puffmoike at 6:06 AM on October 24, 2009


My wife moves things around all the time, and I take the side with the larger table because I wear a watch and glasses.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:17 AM on October 24, 2009


When alone in a queen-sized bed, I sleep on the right - regardless of the configuration of the room. This feels natural to me as a right-handed person.

When I moved into her bed, the then-future-Mrs. Beese was also a right-side sleeper. I started on the left but didn't like it. So at my request, she ceded the right to me. ["I was in love," she explained - upon being consulted just now.] After more than a decade of sleeping thus, neither of us would ever feel comfortable on the other side again.

FWIW: 1. When we travel together, she always drives - by mututal preference. 2. I'm not the protective type in general. 3. Upon making an effort to recall, I note that Father Beese slept to the right of Mother Beese.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:32 AM on October 24, 2009


I sleep on whichever side is closest to the door. My husband and I flipped our headboard with our footboard a while back- I still sleep on the side closest to the door.
posted by headspace at 7:33 AM on October 24, 2009


Curious. Through the pattern of my various moves and so on, I've always slept on the side closest to the door. It's just felt right. Perhaps it was the lazier option?
posted by Magnakai at 7:34 AM on October 24, 2009


At home, I sleep on the left side, which is also the side closest to the door. My parents had the same pattern. While first contemplating this question, I thought it might have something to do with handedness: I'm left-handed, as is my mom, and I'm uncomfortable holding hands with my husband while standing to his right. It's always my right hand/his left hand, leaving both our dominate hands free.

HOWEVER, I realized that when we are visiting my parents' house, HE sleeps on the left side, which is the side farthest from the door. So I really do thing it is a door-determined thing, in our case. It would not be incorrect to say that I'm the dominant person in the marriage, and I believe you could have said the same thing about my parents.

But there is also the mom factor--in both cases, it's the wife who is also the one who gets up in the middle of the night to respond to "I had a bad dream" or "I think I'm going to throw up." The frequency with which that happens is far greater than the frequency with which "the man of the house" needs to leap out of bed to deal with hostile intruders. And I believe when we're in a single hotel room as a family, he takes the side against the wall and away from the other bed/kids, whether or not it is closest to the room door. (He's their step-parent, for what it's worth).
posted by drlith at 8:02 AM on October 24, 2009


I sleep on the side of the bed the owner of said bed doesn't sleep on. In my own bed I sleep on the right side, against the wall, furthest from the door.
because that's where the reading lamp is.
posted by HFSH at 9:08 AM on October 24, 2009


Top bunk.
posted by prufrock at 9:53 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I sleep on the right because I have gotten myself into a sleeping position rut where I can generally only fall asleep if I am on my stomach facing right. And having something in front of my face makes it too hot. And I can't stand having someone breathe on me it drives me absolutely batty.

Yes, I am a bit weird about sleeping. Apologies to my boyfriend.
posted by that girl at 8:37 PM on October 24, 2009


As a data point, I'm the mom and I started sleeping closest to the door when I had kids, so I could hear them/reach them quickly and so they could find me. They're teenagers now so they aren't looking for me in the dark anymore but the sleep habit is pretty well ingrained.
posted by headnsouth at 3:10 PM on October 25, 2009


not that anyone other than the OP is going to read down this far

but, hetero male, i sleep on the right closest to the door. before we were married it was a toss up at hotels and what not. now we always keep to the same side regardless of where the door is at the sleep location.

and to the above posters, my left hand is equally adept at nighttime groping of the Mrs.
posted by phritosan at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2009


I'm married and I sleep closest to the door and the bathroom regardless of which side of the bed it is. In hotel rooms, I usually sleep on the same side of the bed that I'm currently sleeping at home regardless of the bathroom.
posted by Kimberly at 11:51 AM on October 26, 2009


I don't know how I missed this post before, but thank you podcast.

When my husband and I were dating, we would each sleep on the side closest to the door at our respective places. I slept closer to the door at my place because I have children who might need my attention. At his place, where there were no children, I snagged the wall side.

Nowadays, I still tend to be the one by the door.

When he goes to visit family or works when I'm not or whatever and I'm sleeping alone, I can tell you exactly what side I take in our queen-sized bed... the middle, with a lovely pillow nest. Ahhh.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:36 AM on November 6, 2009


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